Praktica MTL5

CameraCollection_24__DSC3422The Praktica MTL5 is a simple mechanical fully manual SLR with a metal body like the Pentax K1000. Operation is simple and straight forward with no multiple vari-programs, auto-focus modes nor drive modes getting into the your way in taking photos, just focus, set the aperture and shutter speed, shoot and wind to the next frame! Thus, it is a great choice for people who wants to start from the basic in learning photography, especially for those with a tight budget.

The Praktica MTL5 was manufactured by VEB Pentacon in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR/East Germany). It is one of the late models of the long-lived Praktica L-series SLRs and was produced from 1983 to 1985, a few years before the fall of Berlin Wall in 1989 and the reunification of Germany in 1990.

The MTL5 uses the M42 universal screw mount which was first introduced in 1949 with the Zeiss Contax S (world’s first pentaprism 35mm SLR) in which itself also made in former GDR. Beside Praktica, Pentax and a number of other manufacturers also had used the M42 mount on their SLRs. However, at the time of the introduction of the MTL5, almost all other manufacturers (with the exception of Zenit KMZ of Russia and might be a few others) had replaced the aging M42 screw mount on their SLRs with the more precise and more efficient bayonet mount.

Unlike the Pentax K1000, the Praktica MTL5 uses stop-down metering which means you focus with apreture fully open (thus a bright viewfinder image) and then close down the apreture to its preset (by using the black level at the front of the camera slight upper-right to the shutter button, see photo above.) to meter the light. To be more precise, this method should be called stop-down metering with automatic diaphragm because the apreture stays fully openned before picture taking (except when during the time the stop-down lever is manully pressed down) and is automatically close down to the preset by the camera during the shutter is openned. This is done by a metal plate inside the camera body pressing down the silver pin (see photo above) on the rear of the lens.

The MTL5 has am unusual placement of its shutter button (see photo above) which at first might take the user a bit time to get used to but eventually should make the handling better. Another thing worth noted is its self-timer. It has its own release button which must be used instead of the main shutter release. Because of this, I once thought the self-timer is broken on their camera since I could not initiate the timing process by pressing the main shutter release.

Also, the MTL5 offers film quick-loading which is not usually seen on an entry-level full manual camera. Unlike more sophisticated quick-load designs used in Japanese SLRs, the MTL5 quick-load mechanism is simple but effective (see photo above).

Compare to Pentax K1000

Similarities:

  • Both employ mechanical shutter which allow the camera to operate with full range of shutter speeds without battery.
  • Standard ISO hot-shoe plus PC-sync terminal provided.
  • simple, reliable, durable and economical.

Advantage over the K1000:

  • depth-of-field preview is possible with the stop-down lever.
  • stop-down lever serves as the on/off switch of the light-meter (for the K1000, you need to keep the lens cap on when not in use to prevent battery draining)
  • self-timer
  • film quick-load mechanism
  • strong metal blade shutter with a sync speed of 1/125 seconds (K1000 has a cloth shutter with a slower 1/60 seconds sync speed)
  • a larger “ready position angle” for the winding lever which provides better handling (it is only about 10° for the K1000)

Weak Points:

  • M42 screw mount is much less efficient than the bayonet K mount of the K1000. It takes longer to mount/remove a lens and there is a possibility of cross-threading when it is not done carefully.
  • Although some M42 mount lenses are legendary in their optical quality, the K mount has a much larger and more modern lens choices. Even a modern Pentax full-frame auto-focus zoom lens can be used on the K1000 as long as that lens has an apreture ring.
  • Stop-down metering takes longer than K1000’s open-apreture metering.
  • The MTL5 meter requires an obsolete and banned mercury battery while the K1000 meter uses a readily available silver-oxide battery.
  • Very strong shutter and mirror flipping mechanism which requires a  pair of steadier than usual hands to prevent camera-shake.
  • The leatherette that covers the body might come off as the camera ages.

Well, let’s see some sample photos from the Praktica MTL5. Two different lenses were used, the Pentacon 50mm f1.8 MC (upper photo) and the Praktica 135mm f2.8 (lower photo), film used is Fujifilm XTRA 400.

 

The Story behind my Praktica MTL5

I had been looking for a mechanical camera for a long time. It was not my initial intention to buy the MTL5 since I am a Nikon user myself. I was looking for something like a FM10 or a Nikkormat but none of the used ones I encountered are both acceptable in quality and price. Then I saw someone selling a MTL5 with a 50mm and a 135mm lens on a local Internet classified, the price can only be said to be a fair deal (not extra-ordinary cheap) but since I always want to buy an East German or Soviet made camera, I decided to take it.

The lenses are in almost prefect condition and camera itself is not bad either, it is mechanically good. Cosmetically, I replaced part of the light-seals and re-attached some of the leatherette “skin” that came off. The speed markings on the shutter dail were gone and a new one made from paper (photocopy from pictures in manual) is sticked onto the dial. The camera came with its original user-manual and warranty card (long expired of course) issued by local distributor. Even the original battery (which is also made in Germany) was still inside the camera when I bought it but of course this is not a good thing.

Unfortunately, it was broken recently and now sitting in my closet as a part camera. Below is an image from the last roll and it was shot with Fomapan 100 film.

LondonFarmFoma100_015

Status: In Collection

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19 Responses to Praktica MTL5

  1. Bryony Young says:

    Hiya, I have just purchased one of these second hand. I can’t seem to get the battery out ( as I am sure it needs an updated replacement). I really want to get into photography and this looks simple and perfect for my needs to understand the basics, so I am a little fish out of water and could do with a hand with how to get this up and running. I have a normal and wide lenses which are good condition and all the dials and parts seem to be fine x

    • Hi! Bryony, the battery compartment is located at the bottum of the body and should easily be openned by using a coin. If it is stuck, it is probably the long expired battery inside had leaked and the corrosive material got the compartment cap stuck. Rule of thumb of repairing and restoring cameras is “Do Not Force Anything”, I would recommend you seek help from the forum of the following classic camera repair site: http://www.kyphoto.com/classics/

      I would guess the metering circuit is damaged already but good news is the mechincal Praktica will work without the battery. The meter of my MTL5 does not work and I uses the Zeiss Ikon handheld meter (which I bought it for only $20CAD) instead.

      If you have a MTL5 (not MTL5B or MTL50) and providing your metering circuit is working, you need to find a replacement for the banned 1.35V PX625 mercury battery. To the best of my knowledge, the metering circuit is not voltage sensitive and you can use the 1.5V alkaline subsitute EPX625G.

  2. Bryony Young says:

    Great. I got the battery working fine, it came out fine it was just a little tighter than i expected. I am trying to load the film. It seems that I don’t have the litle support/srew ( as in your picture) that keeps the film flat and therefore is not loading very well. It is a MTL 5. So any ideas in how to load it properly and keeping it flat without it or a better replacement? Thanks for help x

  3. Are you talking about the little retangular piece (with a screw on it) above the sprokets? It serves not just the purpose of keeping the film flat but also to make sure the sprokets engage in the perforations. If you don’t mind, could you take a photo of it and give me the link to the photo?

    Anyway, if it is that part being missing, you may want to search for a non-functional Praktica L-series body to sabotage that part to put it on your MTL5. All the Praktica L-series bodies should have the same quick-load mechanism with many parts being interchangable. But of course, you can simply to open the back of camera before your purchase.

  4. pixiemeat says:

    I bought one recently at a second hand shop and for some reason when I turn the diaphragm ring (both in metering mode and out of metering mode), nothing happens. Is there supposed to be a noticeable difference?

  5. By “nothing happens”, do you mean the aperture does not close down when the metering lever is pressed? Does the aperture close down when the shutter fires? Is your lens set a “A”?

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  8. David Smith says:

    How does the durability and build quality of the Praktica compare to Pentax e.g. K1000 (which I had but sold a long time ago), and SP (which I have used avidly for the past 9 years despite some minor problems). I’m looking to keep using my collection of M42 lenses and am wondering whether I should get another SP, or (slightly cheaper) MTL5.

    • Body construction-wise, they are about the same except for the rubber leatherette on the some of the Praktica L-series models which tend to come off when aged. The metal shutters on the Praktica L-series are stronger than the K1000/SP plus with higher sync speed. If you can find a MTL5B or MTL50, it will be great since they use LR44 instead of mercury battery. However, since you are a SP user, I believe you already knew about mercury battery subsitutes, so this might or might not be an issue for you.

      Note that some Pentacon M42 lenses might not work properly with Pentax screw mount bodies due to intervention with mirror. For example, my Pentacon 50mm MC does not work with my old Pentax S3 (pre-spomatic body)

      • David Smith says:

        Thanks. I’d heard about mirror-clearance issues with some lenses but not the specific case. Interesting thing about build quality: as I mentioned I’ve been using an original model Spotmatic (not an SP, as I mistakenly supposed) for nine years, with a few minor issues. I also picked up a factory refurb Canon Rebel-T1 about five years ago (which I’ve used far less), and the plastic it is made from is already beginning to degrade with bits breaking off and screws falling out around the film door hinge and latch (this is not due to any kind of physical abuse, just normal use). Very well-engineered technology, but made with inferior materials. Now I wonder about the lifespan of digital slr’s (apart from their being obsoleted in a very few years).

      • I would say you can’t expect the same built-quality when comparing a film body and digital body of the same level (e.g. Nikon F-801 vs D300).

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  10. Roger LeBlanc says:

    I just found my dad’s old camera and I know it sounds stupid, but how do you get the back off?

    • If you meant opening it, you can simply pull up the rewind knob on the top-left. If, for some reason, want to take the back off, you can’t do it without some disassembly since the back qas not designed to be removed like some other cameras.

  11. nazerin says:

    i got one from car-boot sale. but the metering seems not working, i changed the new battery but its still not working. the metering needle just stay the same. i hate to use pocket light meter. do you know how to fix it?

    • Sorry for the late reply, has been super busy. Regarding about the meter, I do not know how to fix it. If you do not want to use a handheld meter, you might want to practice with the Sunny-16 Rules.

  12. Fred says:

    I got one too, recently (for 5€).
    The metering seemed to be out of order. So, I used my MTL5B without metering.
    One day, I decided to try one more time with a new battery. Still not working.
    So, I removed the piece on the bottom, by removing the battery cap and the four little screws.
    The electronic circuit was a bit dirty. I cleaned it with a small piece of tender wood.
    I also cleaned the piece that makes contact when you push on the metering lever on the front.
    Now, it works.
    (sorry for my english, I’m french…)

    Fred

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